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Saffron has a go at history

A significant outcome of the kind of history being taught in these schools is down-grading the role of Mahatma Gandhi in the freedom movement and exalting that of Veer Savarkar, writes Khushwant Singh.

india Updated: Nov 07, 2008 23:51 IST

I wasn’t aware that the Hindu Mahasabha and the RSS had set up many schools across the country, known as Saraswati Shishu Mandirs and Vidya Bharati Schools. The number of teachers employed runs into thousands; the number of students into hundreds of thousands. They also have a publishing house to print their own text books. I was happy to learn this as our country needs more schools — the more the better — as well as more text-books. However, when I discovered what they teach in these schools, I was sorely disappointed. It is make-believe historical fiction to boost our morale and foster suspicion and hatred against Indian-born minorities who don’t share the same kind of pride in our past, notably Muslims and Christians.

To start with, it is assumed that Bharat Varsha is co-terminous with Aryavarta: Dravidians, who were Indians before the Aryans came to inhabit the southern half of our country, are ignored. Their role model is Adolf Hitler who purged Aryan Germany of semitic races by gassing millions of Jews and Gypsies, while Germans of today regard Hitler as the devil-incarnate and are ashamed of him. RSS & Sena leaders hero-worship him.

Buddhism and its great propagator, Emperor Ashoka, who preached ahimsa (non-violence) were, according to them, unmitigated disasters as they robbed us of our martial qualities, made us cowardly and unable to resist marauding Muslim armies wielding swords in one hand and Koran in the other: they were, according to K.B.Hedgewar, founder of the RSS, “hissing Yavana snakes”. A few examples from these textbooks are pertinent: Muslims’ greatest wish to have a darshan of the black stone, shivalinga, installed in Mecca. The Qutub Minar of Delhi was built by Emperor Samudragupta and known as the Vishnu Stambha. (The fact that it is festooned with verses from the Koran is not mentioned).

It is asserted that the Babri Masjid was never a Masjid because namaaz was never performed in it. (Photographs of the building before demolition showed three domes and a wall facing Mecca). An outrageous statement was made by the present head of the RSS, K.S. Sudarshan, in November 2001 in which he dismissed eminent historians as ‘anti-Hindu’ Euro-Indians.

He claimed that “in ancient India, we knew about nuclear energy and sage Bharadwaja and Raja Bhoj not only described the construction of aeroplanes, but also discussed details like what types of aeroplanes would fly and at what height.” It is not surprising that all this so-called history fabricated earlier was given respectability during the tenure of Murli Manohar Joshi as education minister in the Vajpayee-led BJP government. Joshiji also initiated astrology as a subject in universities. However, while his horoscope assured him victory, he lost the election to the Lok Sabha.

A significant outcome of the kind of history being taught in these schools is down-grading the role of Mahatma Gandhi in the freedom movement and exalting that of Veer Savarkar. Though Savarkar was acquitted on technical grounds of the charge of conspiracy to kill Gandhi, the Justice Kapur Commission later squarely implicated him as the man who inspired the foul deed. His portrait was installed in Parliament House during the rule of the BJP. Before you accuse me of anti-RSS and BJP bias, take a look at a booklet — RSS, School Texts and the Murder of Mahatma Gandhi (Sage). It is compiled by three distinguished professors of history at JNU (Aditya Mukherjee, Mridula Mukherjee and Sucheta Mahajan). The source of every quotation is given to prove its authenticity. The basic text is barely 80 pages.

Finally, ask yourself, is this kind of brain-washing of young minds and filling them with hate good for the country? It will turn our sweet dreams of a hate-free Hindustan into a nightmare of vicious civil strife.

My angry neighbour

My next-door neighbour Reeta Devi Verma of Cooch Bihar is a very angry person. She is a Hindu-Buddhist who worked with Mother Teresa for sometime after she quit her job as an Air India hostess. She continues her association with the Sisters of Charity in Guwahati and Delhi. Her current occupation is running two mobile clinics donated to her Ila Trust by Sir Elton John and cabinet minister Kapil Sibal. She takes them to different parts of Delhi and gives free medical aid and medicines to the needy. Her latest beat includes Batla House in Jamia Nagar.

At one time, among many of her callers was Naveen Patnaik, currently Chief Minister of Orissa. Through her I met him a couple of times. He was then busy writing about nature. I found him urbane, sophisticated, soft-spoken and cultured. Also, at the same time, effeminate. I think he wasn’t cut out to be a politician or an administrator. However, riding on the esteem his father Biju Patnaik en joyed in Orissa, he found himself at the helm of affairs of his home state. He has evidently failed to stamp out anti-Christian violence perpetrated by a rabid section of Bajrang Dal. His police pay little heed to his orders and let vandals burn churches and molest nuns. In short, he has proved to be an incompetent and effete ruler of a large and important state. So Reeta Devi lost her cool and fired off an angry letter to him . It goes somewhat as follows: “Dear Naveen: You might recall the days when you used to drop in on me. You might remember I gave you a Mother Teresa rosary because I thought you admired her and the work her Missionaries of Charity were doing. I am disappointed by your inability to put down goondagardi against Christians. I am ashamed of you.”

Why so much rain?

Q. Why is Punjab getting more rains in the last two years than ever before ?

A. Because there are three Badals (clouds) in Punjab: the Chief Minister, Finance Minister and the Head of the Ruling Party.

(Contributed by KJS Ahluwalia, Amritsar)